Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Arch of Purple Beeches after Hurricane Sandy



Until I went out to the street, on the way to the Post Office to pick up the mail, I thought that Hurricane Sandy hadn't been able to touch the gardens.  And then I noticed the arch of columnar purple beeches.  It was now askew. 


Passing directly in front of the house, I could see that "askew" really meant "awful."  The arch's right-hand beech was slanting across the front door at such an angle that it could have been kept off the ground entirely only because I had tied its upper third to that of the left-hand beech when I formed the arch last year. 




Following the leaning trunk back to its origin, the worst was clear.  Beeches are propagated by grafting.  Most grafts that have functioned well enough to allow the tree to grow for nearly a decade are good enough—solid enough—to be assumed to be permanent, enabling the tree to live all the decades of its regular lifespan.


But not in this case.  The right-hand tree wasn't any smaller than the left, but its graft hadn't knit the rootstock (plain-green-leaved European beech, Fagus sylvatica) to the scion (the fancy top portion, the 'Dawyck Purple' beech) well at all.  This was a healthy graft the way a Potemkin village was a fully-inhabited village.




I'm not sure if the black portions of the top surface of the rootstock are what they appear to be: Dead or at least non-functioning wood.  Even if they are, the shock is how smooth—how not knit together—is the rest of the graft surface.  It's as if the 'Dawyck Purple' scion were only sitting atop the rootstock.




Looking back at the arch itself, it's now obvious how much less new foliage there was on the fallen beech than the still-erect one.  How could I not have noticed, all Summer long, that the right-hand beech was in trouble?  Even more worrying:  Did my rough-and-ready bending of the beeches, which would subject their entire trunk, graft included, to new and unexpected stress, start the process of graft failure?  Was I responsible for killing this tree? 






There's no way to establish culpability; I once had two Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck Purples' fail in a hedge of over forty that I created for a client.  They were all vertical, and amid forty 'Dawyck Purples' that were thriving, and still are.  And yet, for no apparent reason, the grafts of those two trees failed, too.


I'll revive the arch by replacing the fallen 'Dawyck Purple'.  Beeches can be transplanted only in Spring, but beeches that, as this one was, were dug in the Spring, could also be planted in the Fall.  Nonetheless, it's late in the season.  Better to untie this fallen beech from its still-erect partner, and wait until Spring to replace it.  Meanwhile, I'll keep the left-handed beech in its curve so I don't have to stress it unnecessarily when I retie it to its new right-hand arch-mate:  I'll bend a twenty-foot length of rebar and tie it to it.  I'll also buy a modest-sized right-hand beech, and grow it into the arch by way of tying it to that same arch of rebar.  Its graft won't be stressed at all, then.


Through triumph as well as failure, the lessens of gardening never stop.


Here's how to grow this columnar purple beech.


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